Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Cutty Sark remembered

Coming as I do from south east London (where the taxis don't go after midnight) I was devastated to learn about the Cutty Sark fire. I have often been there in the past, and only last year we visited it, at the request of my son, while on a family weekend holiday in London.

Here is a picture taken during that w/e, of what it used to look like:

Let us hope that one day we can see it again.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Justice, what justice?

I was very concerned to read in the Law Society Gazette today that if the proposed reforms to legal aid go ahead, it will lead to the 'immediate dismantlement' of specialist civil liberty legal teams in some firms. This is because cases dealt with by specialist providers tend to be more complex and time-consuming and are likely to be unprofitable under the reformed 'fixed fee' system. Government cannot expect solicitors to maintain a service if it is going to be run at a loss or at no profit.

Michael Schwarz, partner and Bindman & Partners said "Clients will not have access to specialist lawyers and their human rights will be at risk. It will be an encouragement for negligence or abuse by state officials, and is a recipe for injustice."

A LSC spokesman trotted out the usual statement saying that the numbers of people helped has increased. But we all know that statistics can be very misleading. Maybe more people wanting to know what to do about their grazed knees after tripping on a paving stone in the High Street have been advised via a telephone helpline, but what about those with serious human rights problems who need more specialised help? Does giving basic legal telephone help to ten people really equate to a better service than helping one person with a serious but expensive human rights problem? It is certainly cheaper, so maybe in government-speak it is.

It is ironic that the government which introduced the Human Rights Act is now going to be responsible for taking away the ability of people to use it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reflections on Riverside v. White

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


Housing associations, in particular Riverside Housing Association, will have been popping champagne corks recently, to celebrate the result of the recent House of Lords decision in the case of Riverside Housing Association v. White.

In this case Mr and Mrs White, who were being evicted by their landlords, Riverside, sought to claim that they were not really in rent arrears because Riverside had not complied properly with the rent review clause in their tenancy agreement for the past four years or so. Worryingly for the housing association, the Court of Appeal agreed with them. This had very serious implications for Riverside, as the Whites were not the only tenants whose tenancies contained this clause and whose rent had been increased in this way. They had no option but to appeal.

The House of Lords have now found in their favour, finding a slightly different way of interpreting the wording of the review clause. However there were some interesting points in this decision:

  • Their Lordships made it clear that this case was being treated slightly differently because it was not like the normal run of rent review clauses which appear before them. The appellant is "a charity and a registered social landlord and it is publicly funded. Its tenants will be relatively poorly off individuals, no doubt normally with limited, if any, experience of interpreting legal documents."

  • They also commented that the whole structure and drafting of the rent review provisions (which was criticised in the decision) was quite different from that which one would expect to find in any commercial lease.
This seems to be signalling that slightly different considerations will apply in future when interpreting rent review clauses in residential leases (particularly for social tenancies) as opposed to commercial leases.

However this does not mean that landlords can now take a relaxed view of rent review clauses. Riverside had to wait several years and go all the way to the House of Lords to get this decision. Even though their opponent has been ordered to pay their legal costs (another drain on the legal aid fund), it is likely that they will have suffered financially as a result of this case.

It is far better to do your utmost to avoid the possibility of any dispute, to draft clear and unequivocal rent review clauses in the first place (which do not make the parties go through too many hoops - all of which can become points for dispute later), to and ensure that the clause is followed to the letter every time the rent is reviewed.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tessa on the radio

I was on the radio last week! I got rung up I think on Monday by a lady from Radio Solent (Hampshire, miles away from me in Norwich) saying that they wanted to do a feature on lodgers and would I go on and talk a bit? Well I’m always willing to give it a go if it means publicity for Landlord-law (such a capitalist!) so I said yes, why not?

Although I would have preferred to be interviewed on proper landlord law, my site does cover lodger stuff. Apparently there is not much on the net on lodgers so when she did her re-searching, my site was pretty high up on the list (perhaps partly due to my domain name).

They were not able to do the first day they suggested as someone important in sport died and they had to do a feature on him, but we did it on the Friday.

As it was in Hampshire and I am in Norwich it was done on the phone. You get rung up and they then put you on hold but you can hear the program. When you are on the air they clue you in by asking a question with your name in it so you know when to answer. It is all very immediate and frantic on the radio, quite fun, but there were constant interruptions for things like traffic reports, or updates on a charity auction they were doing. I just sat there and spoke when asked to.

I listened to myself later via the BBC listen again feature and I suppose I was not too awful, although I ummed a bit. But you do, don’t you, when you are thinking of what to say? I don’t think there were any real bad bits, although I suspect that they knew when I was struggling as they would cut in with a charity auction update, which let me off the hook a couple of times.

Anyway, I have now ‘done’ radio. Did anyone hear me? What did you think?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Help for tenants with tenancy deposit protection claims

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


I read a news report recently which said that about 97% of all landlords holding deposits have not yet joined one of the government authorised tenancy deposit schemes. Although one reason for this surprisingly high figure may be that many landlords have not needed to join a scheme yet, it is still disgraceful. So I have decided to do something about it!

I have therefore drafted up two county court claim forms (one for tenants who paid deposits after 6 April 2007 and one for tenants who paid the deposit earlier and whose tenancy was renewed after 6 April 2007) and a set of instructions, to enable tenants to reclaim their damage deposit and the 'fine' of three times the damage deposit figure, and these are being given away free of charge to annual members of my online service at

I did consider adding this to my list of online kits. However I charge extra for these as they are very detailed and include telephone advice. The tenancy deposit claim is fairly straightforward (4 pages of instructions as opposed to about 30) and I know that many tenants will not be able to afford my subscription fee and an extra fee for a kit. I am afraid I do want the subscription fee though (I have to earn a living somehow)! Also if the tenants are members, this will allow them to ask questions in the members discussion forum, which will serve instead of the telephone advice.

Hopefully my landlords will not be too annoyed about this and think I have betrayed them! But my site is for both landlords and tenants, and I have to keep tenants interests in mind too. All my landlord members should be already complying with the scheme anyway, and if they are dong it, why should other landlords get away with flouting the law?

I would be interested in any feedback from tenants using the forms to bring a claim.

Stumble Upon Toolbar